Clearly Insightful: A Visionary Chat with Dr. Pooja Sethi

We recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Pooja Sethi of Carolina Ophthalmology, a dedicated ophthalmologist passionate about providing comprehensive eye care. Dr. Sethi emphasizes the importance of regular eye exams and highlights the specialized care offered at Carolina Ophthalmology. Stay tuned to learn more about her innovative approaches to eye care and love for the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

A confident woman stands smiling with her hand on her hip, wearing a navy blue scrub set against a light background, embodying professionalism as highlighted in The Scout Guide.

Could you share some insights when it comes to basic eye health for all ages?

A screening eye exam and routine eye exams (every year especially for individuals over 50 years old) can go a long way. Often we can diagnose ocular issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal disorders before patients may notice symptoms. We often ‘nip things in the bud’ before these issues can be more problematic. Being aware of your family history is also helpful. Perhaps the largest modifiable risk factor for many ocular pathologies is tobacco use. Avoiding cigarettes is helpful for many reasons, including preserving your sight.

What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist? Do people need a referral from another doctor to visit your practice?

Ophthalmologists, designated with an ‘MD’ or ‘DO’ after their name, are medical doctors who are trained in medical school (after completing their undergraduate degree) to treat the whole person. They undertake four additional years of specialized training in eye care, diseases of the eye, and surgery. Ophthalmologists are uniquely poised to diagnose and treat medical conditions and trained to perform in office eye procedures (minor surgeries, laser procedures, LASIK) and surgical management of eye diseases. Many ophthalmologists also see routine eye exams and prescribe glasses.

Optometrists, designated with an ‘OD’ after their name, complete a 4 year course in Optometry school and routinely see patients for routine eye exams, sometimes specializing in low vision services. They work closely with ophthalmologists and refer to them if their patients have a medical issue. Optometrists specialize in glasses and contact lens fittings and sometimes work closely with Optical shops to prescribe glasses.

Typically, you do not need a referral from another doctor to visit our practice. A common misconception is you must have ‘vision insurance’ to visit an ophthalmologist. In fact, the opposite is true. Due to the more medical nature of our care, our services are covered under medical insurance.

Can you share more about Carolina Ophthalmology and what the practice specializes in? Do you see patients of all ages?

We are multi-specialty, private practice specializing in medical and surgical eye care for all patients, ages 18 and older. We have different areas of expertise, ranging from comprehensive eye care, cataracts, corneal treatments, glaucoma, and retinal care.

What is your favorite procedure to perform on a patient?

I am a cataract surgeon and love bringing the newest technologies to Western North Carolina. One of my areas of particular interest is femtosecond laser cataract surgery, which includes a bladeless surgical technique to allow my patients to achieve their vision goals (often including increased glasses independence) at the same time as cataract surgery.

Let’s talk Women. As we know, women’s hormones, aging, perimenopause etc. can affect our eyes pretty significantly. What do women need to know?

One of the biggest impacts of hormonal changes in women as we get older on the eyes is the development of dry eyes. Decreases in estrogen lead to not only decreased tear production in the eyes, but the quality of tears produced is often less robust. Early detection of this issue in the years leading to perimenopause and menopause ensures that we have a plan in place to tackle the effects of dry eye before symptoms become more pronounced. This also helps prevent vision loss that comes with chronic dry eye.

The pressure to fight aging is everywhere in our society. This includes fillers and lashes, experimental anti-aging technologies, to the day-to-day makeup routines. It’s impossible to ignore. However, are there any risks or things we should be aware of when it comes to protecting our eyes?

Fads will come and go, but your eyes and your vision are intended to be forever. Certainly ensuring that any fillers and injectables around the eye are done by a professional that understands the unique periorbital anatomy and blood supply is paramount, as to avoid visually catastrophic situations. It is also important to ensure you do not have any eye conditions that would be exacerbated by certain injectables, medications, or makeup products before utilizing them. This can often be done with a routine eye exam.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Any hobbies? 

I love spending time living in one of the most beautiful areas in the country with my husband and 3 little boys. Every time we travel anywhere else, our breaths are still taken away by seeing our Blue Ridge Mountains on the horizon as we return home. Other specific interests include regular exercise (I have a love/hate relationship with my Peloton), tennis, and Indian dance. These are some things that help keep both the left and right sides of my brain balanced with Ophthalmology!

Is there anything else about you personally or your practice that you would like to share with us?

I truly enjoy meeting and learning about people. I went into this field because I love cultivating relationships with my patients (and often their family members) over many years and becoming involved in the big and small moments of their lives. Carolina Ophthalmology is an amazing set of physicians with a unqiue pairing of incredible training and skill coupled with warmth and compassion. I feel proud to work with the doctors in this practice. We all feel lucky to be able to provide exceptional eye care to WNC.

Carolina Ophthalmology is a multi-specialty practice, committed to providing exceptional medical and surgical eye care for adults. The team of skilled ophthalmologists offers a wide range of services to meet the needs of its patients. Located in WNC, they pride themselves on advanced technologies and compassionate approach. This ensures that each patient receives personalized and effective treatment for their eye health needs.

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